It goes without saying that the past year has been really rough for Boeing. The worst situation has involved the 737 MAX being grounded globally following two fatal crashes. On top of that, Boeing’s brand new 777X has been delayed as well.
What is the Boeing 777X?
For those of you not familiar, the Boeing 777X is Boeing’s newest version of the 777. It will come in two variants — the 777-8 and 777-9 — and the planes are both longer range and larger than existing 777s.
With there clearly not being a market anymore for planes like the A380 and 747-8, this seems to be about the biggest we should expect from aircraft manufacturers in the coming years.
Boeing’s 787 is also popular, though this is intended as a larger alternative.
Boeing’s 777X challenges up until now
The 777X was supposed to have its first flight in mid-2019, though several months ago we learned that the plane wouldn’t fly until 2020 due to engine issues.
The problem involves a General Electric engine, the GE9X. This is the largest engine ever on a commercial plane, and it’s having durability problems. This has delayed certification on the plane.
That wasn’t the only issue, though. During the 777X certification process, a door also blew off during a stress test.
777X to fly in coming days
Boeing has just announced that the 777X is expected to make its first test flight as early as January 23, 2020, subject to weather and other factors.
After years of design and testing, it’s almost time to fly. The #777X will make its first flight as early as January 23, subject to weather and other factors.
— Boeing Airplanes (@BoeingAirplanes) January 21, 2020
This will be one of many test flights before the plane actually enters commercial service, though it’s a step in the right direction. We also know that the plane won’t be delivered to any airlines before 2021, which is creating some challenges for the airlines that have been relying on this plane for their fleet renewal. Heck, we’re even waiting on this plane for Lufthansa to launch their new business class.
Could 777X face similar challenges to 737 MAX?
There are many parallels between the process that Boeing has gone through with the 737 MAX and the 777X:
- The 737 MAX is an evolution of the previous version of the 737, and the 777X is an evolution of the previous version of the 777
- Boeing has relied on the commonality between the aircraft type as a selling point to airlines
- In recently revealed company emails, Boeing employees complained about some of the suppliers being used with the 737 MAX, noting “best part is we are re-starting this whole thing with the 777X with the same supplier and have signed up to an even more aggressive schedule!”
The point is, I think it’s safe to say that the 777X will get extra scrutiny during the FAA certification process, given the precedent that the 737 MAX set.
The 777X is on the surface an exciting evolution of the the previous version of the 777. The plane has already been delayed significantly, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that continue.
While the first flight is a step in the right direction, I think it’s safe to say that Boeing faces an uphill battle when it comes to the certification process for this plane, just as with the 737 MAX.
Call me a skeptic, but I’m not counting on the 777X entering service in 2021…